MUSIC | Artist Spotlight
Interviews by BeBe Sweetbriar | BebeSweetbriar.com
Coming off the recent Fetty Wap tour as his opening act, Brooklyn born singer INAS X has had the dream to be a performer for as long as she can remember. The release of her debut single Love Is has not only opened up her opportunity to live her dream, but also, the single and its message of gives her current fans and fans to be an insight into the artist’s social consciousness. INAS X prides herself on being a strong, passionate, “boss babe,” and hopes to create a “movement of love” through her music. “I feel there are a lot of things going on in the world that is negative,” says Inas X of the current state of the world today. “And, all the world needs is more love.” Love Is is a positive, dance/pop song inspired by the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, and reflects Inas X’s desire to capture the historic moment. The music video for the single showcases people from all different walks of life to illustrate the message that love is for everyone. The joyous feeling is infectious, and by the end you have no choice but to give in to the power of love.
“I knew how important this was for so many people,” says INAS X in a recent press release. “Love shouldn’t be something that’s restricted… I just had to capture this movement in a song.”
INAS X’s parents are from Palestine, and helped to cultivate her unique musical influences which include Arabic music, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Reggae. Released on Fetty Wap’s record label RGF Productions, Love Is is the lead single from INAS’ debut EP set for release later in 2016.
With the recent release of Love Is official remix by award winning Producers/Remixers Toy Armada and DJ GRIND, I took an opportunity speak with INAS X and the remix production team about how Love Is keeps its message when heard on the dance floor and more.
BeBe: We are in love with your infectious song Love Is which has a great message, especially for the LGBT community.
Inas X: I had to do it. I really wanted to make this a celebration song. Everything I stand for is for love.
BeBe: You have said that you are on a “revolution of love”. What do you mean by that?
Inas X: I feel there are a lot of things going on in the world that is negative, and all the world needs is “more love”. It’s such a simple, yet complicated concept. Embarking on my journey to pursue music, that is my mission no matter what I do, but my vehicle right now is music. Less hate and more love.
BeBe: You recorded this song some time back and wasn’t really brought to light until a music blog got a hold of it.
Inas X: We recorded it almost a year ago right after the Supreme Court decision was made (federal marriage equality). It was such a special song for me that I didn’t think it would be my official first single. When we released it, the (music) blogs just loved it.
BeBe: How did Fetty Wap come into the picture.
Inas X: I met Fetty right around the time I recorded Love Is at one of his performances. We just vibed.
BeBe: You recently released a music video to the Toy Armada and DJ Grind remix. Are you involved with selecting which remixers you work with?
Inas X: For sure! I definitely am. Sometimes it’s people that I love, other times, it’s people brought to my attention. I am all about collaborating with artists.
Toy Armada & DJ GRIND: We were really inspired that INAS X wrote this song after last year’s historic Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. She’s been a longtime LGBT ally, and we thought the track was such a touching tribute for our community. It was really an honor that she asked us to be part of this project!
BeBe: You know sometimes during remixing of a song with strong lyrics and message, the original intent of the song by the songwriter is lost, but with the Toy and Grind remix everything seems to have been kept in order as intended. It’s a great dance sing but we don’t lose any of the vibe or message. Was that important to to you as you sifted through the submitted remixes?
Inas X: For sure. Funny you say that some of the mixes we have (manipulated) my voice, and when I heard it I hated it, but then I thought it would be good to have one different like that. But normally, I like to keep the message and lyrics as long as it makes sense (in the remix production). That’s real important to me.
Toy Armada & DJ GRIND: We absolutely believe there’s room in dance music for tracks with strong messages. As DJs, we’re always trying to tell a story with the music we select during a live set. A track with a hopeful message can really lift the room and create a celebratory energy. That’s why we really enjoyed remixing Love Is. It allowed us to pair our production with a great message for the audience. We absolutely love making big-room, joyful anthems! That’s our signature sound. So, it’s actually better when we start with a song like Love Is. The lyrics are already so beautiful and inspiring. We let (INAS X) vocals lead us toward melodies and instrumentation that capture the emotion of the song.
BeBe: I first discovered you when I stumbled across your YouTube video performing an acoustic medley of Michael Jackson songs. I was floored! Though he wrote Pop music, Michael was very social aware and conscious of the things happening in the world around him and wrote about it in his songs. His big of an influence has Michael been in how you write your songs?
Inas X: Damn, BeBe, you are on to me! It is so crazy because that is honestly what I try to do. Michael is my biggest inspiration. He was a true artist through and through. Artists see the world differently, and it’s important that we speak on it. It’s important for us to talk about what’s going on. Music is a reflection of what’s going on in society. When I hear songs that have no lyrical content, it kills me! I want to be able to move, to feel and think to music. That’s what I try to put in my music for other people.
Love Is by INAS X is now available on all major digital music outlets, and Toy Armada and DJ GRIND remix video can be seen on YouTube.
For more information on the release of INAS’ upcoming EP and concert dates follow her at www.inasx.com .
Latrice Royale Tells Her Life Story While Mimi Imfurst Sets Thangs A Blaze
Here’s to Latrice for Here’s To Life
Latrice Royale, the larger than life star from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4, is bringing the energy and rawness of the roaring twenties back to the modern age with her debut album, Here’s To Life. The album was developed as a natural expansion to her one-woman show of the same name. In “Here’s To Life,” Latrice shares her stories of growing up gay in the gang-infested streets of Compton, California. She also reflects on time spent behind bars; and her transformation into the grand dame drag fans know and love today. “It’s really the soundtrack to my life,” she says in a press release. “The good, the bad, and the emotionally-wrecked ugly.”
“Ella Fitzgerald is clearly the queen of jazz,” continues Latrice Royale from her Florida home. “I have always loved her and Della Reese and have lip-synched to quite a bit of their music. Shirley Horn and Shirley Bassey are also favorites and had a lot to do with the shaping this project.”
In Here’s To Life, Latrice isn’t trying to match the greatness of her jazz idols Ella Fitzgerald, Della Reese, Shirley Horn or power vocalist Dame Shirley Bassey. She often jokes how her deep baritone voice sounds like Barry White in drag. “This is my voice… I am me and telling my life story. I hope you all get it and receive it without having any preconceived notion of what it will be,” expresses Latrice. Along with her accompanist Christopher Hamblin, the studio musicians, and her producer Mimi Imfurst (fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race alum), Latrice tailor-made an arrangement specifically for her style and aesthetic.
BeBe: I am giddy like a little school girl over your debut EP Here’s To Life. I’m so proud of this record especially knowing that this is a live recorded album both vocally and instrumentally. It is phenomenal. You’ve done it girl!
Latrice: Thank you so much.
BeBe: People are so familiar with your parody songs such as Weight, and then you hit them with these standards on this EP like you been doing this music for 40 years. What was going on over the past two years with you that led you to do a record like this?
Latrice: Well it happened pretty organically. My boyfriend and accompanist, Christopher Hamblin. Was tinkering on the piano playing Summertime, the (opera soprano) Kathleen Battle rendition, and I was chiming in in my range. And he was like, ‘you know you’ve got something here.’ But I didn’t give it a second thought until doing the Drag Sea Cruise and watching the girls’ specialty shows seeing what they were doing motivated me to do something to tell my life story. We started developing my own one-woman show and picking music, and Here’s To Life was the first song I wanted to tackle and sing live because I connected to the Shirley Horn version so well. (RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 3 alum) Mimi (Imfurst) is the technical director for the cruises and she saw the shoe and came to me afterward and said ‘you know what? I’m not moved, but you got something and I want to help you develop this and take it to a different level.’ She got involved, and we took out the mixed in lip syncing I was doing in the show.
BeBe: Folks need to watch the Here’s To Life music video for the single because it’d just you, the camera and the keys (piano). I don’t know but there’s something special watching you in a whole different light. You are very elegant and it took me back to what I imagine The Cotton Club era to have been.
Latrice: Thank you.
BeBe: Ever since hitting the national drag scene on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4, you have broken the perception of what a drag queen should look, sound, act like for many. And with that, in this project, you’ve decided not to try and do something with your heavy and deep voice to feminize it. Did you have any concerns in that decision to do Here’s To Life in your drag persona people would lose some if the illusion?
Latrice: That was one of my biggest concerns. When I look at a Queen singing live and I see the beautiful paint and hair and then I hear ( in a deep bass voice) la,la,la, la… oh Laws! The illusion is killed (we break into laughter). But I was only concerned for a hit moment because I realized I am presenting this as my authentic self. This is my voice. I’m not trying to be Aretha Franklin or Patti LaBelle. I am me and telling my life story. I hope you all get it and receive it without having any preconceived notion of what it will be. Just be in the moment.
Bebe: How did you come to choose the 6 songs on the EP?
Latrice: My one-woman show “Here’s To Life” is interwoven with storytelling and song, so the songs have to connect the dots. These songs really lined up with what my story and heart were trying to say. I grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Horn, Nina Simone but not fully understanding the struggle and singing about it until I got older. It now resonated with me. Looking back over everything I’ve gone through, this is what it’s about. Life is a journey and you have to find acceptance within yourself first, love yourself first, and then you can let that all out into the Universe.
BeBe: You currently are on tour with the Divas of Drag (a Mimi Imfurst production), so your “Here’s To Life” is on hold?
Latrice: A brief, and I mean brief moment. As soon as this is over we are back in New York at the Laura Beechman Theater, May 12-15.
BeBe: So Mimi, I, as well as others, are familiar with your studio recordings previous to full-length album debut The Fire, like your work with the group Xelle. That was much different from the rock music on this album. Is the rock music here where you have always been rooted and most comfortable performing?
Mimi: I first started doing drag in New York, we were performing with rock bands. So I was coming out of that scene and that was what I was doing. It also is the type of music I like to listen to. I unapologetically love that sort of 90s pop/punk and grunge scene. That was really popular in the 90s and rock music hasn’t really been that popular since then. For me it’s kind of no brained. I think rock/punk music and drag go hand-n-hand because drag has something to say.
BeBe: There’s a lot of raw on this album, raw vocals and raw music. You don’t get a lot if these days with auto-tune. We have lost that time where imperfection in music was a good thing. When you attempt to digitize rock music, you can automatically tell it’s not real raw instruments.
Mimi: That imperfection is so important to create emotion. Sia actually does it. She’s crashing her voice and breaking it, and it doesn’t sound pretty but it works. We miss that. Bette Midler once said in an interview ‘I learned a longtime ago that I don’t have to sing perfect for it to be right.’ I wanted to create an album that was real. I wanted to create an album that was refreshing.
BeBe: You’ve done a lot if Off-Broadway work, both theatrical and musical and Productions The Fire definitely tells a story. When I first listened to it I was reminded of the rock operas on stage. Did you have a concept first and wrote with that in mind or did the album just develop organically.
Mimi: It just kind of developed, honestly. The album had a different title at one point and the sings were kind of going in one direction, and then the track The Fire happened, and it became clear to me that that would be the title track on the album. I started thinking what else I wanted on the album in terms of “fire” as a concept. For me, I think of fire as a transformative medium. As an element, fire heats things, it can burn things, it can harden you. It’s also a good metaphor for taking risks and the adventures we have to go through in life. There is definitely a concept to the album, and the concept is transformation.
BeBe: My favorite song on the album is When I Come Home. The emotion you bring to the sing with your voice is stirring. Tell me what that song means to you.
Mimi: I think we all have been at a point in a relationship where it changes. It’s not the relationship you started out in. You have to make the choice, are you going to stay in this thing that’s not working or are you going to be the person in power to release yourself from the relationship? The song is about a person letting themselves go and in doing so releasing the other person, in some way, giving them permission to go.
BeBe: A new album isn’t all the good you have going on right now. You have also put together quite a tour with a shit load of Queens.
Mimi: Yes, Divas of Drag Tour has been a dream come true for me to put together. We are doing thus without all RuGirls. It’s such a mixture. We are really trying to create ownership in the communities we come to. We wanted to create opportunity for the talent who live in the communities we come to perform in to come be in the show with us. It’s been so wonderful and very verse.
You can buy and stream Latrice Royale’s Here’s To Life and Mimi Imfurst’s The Fire debut album at all digital music outlets. Music videos for the title tracks of each project viewable on YouTube.
ARIANA GRANDE, NICK JONAS, AND ALEX NEWELL IS OVER ANTM’s NYLE DIMARCO
The GRAMMY® Award-nominated Ariana Grande unveils her wild side with the release of her title track ‘Dangerous Woman’ off her upcoming album set to release May 20th. Nick Jonas releases his next album ‘Last Year Was Complicated’ on June 10th, and teases us with the duo track & hot video for ‘Close’ with Tove Lo. Ex-Glee star Alex Newell just released his music video for ‘B.O.Y.’ (Basically Over You) featuring video boyfriend, America ‘s Next Top Model Season 22 winner, star of Dancing With The Stars, and ASL spokesman Nyle Dimarco